Czech Cabinet Loses Confidence Vote

A cabinet formed by allies of the leftist president, Miloš Zeman, fails to get the conservative majority’s support.

Presidents Miloš Zeman of the Czech Republic and Joachim Gauck of Germany in Berlin, June 27
Presidents Miloš Zeman of the Czech Republic and Joachim Gauck of Germany in Berlin, June 27 (Presidency of the Czech Republic)

The new Czech government formed by allies of leftist President Miloš Zeman lost a confidence vote on Wednesday, prompting parliament to schedule a session to dissolve itself next week to clear the way for new elections.

Zeman appointed former finance and industry minister Jiří Rusnok as prime minister in defiance of parliament’s conservative majority which had backed the previous government that was led by Petr Nečas. Nečas resigned in June after prosecutors had charged his chief of staff with bribery and illegally ordering military intelligence agents to conduct surveillance operations.

Rusnok won the backing of left-wing parties but was rejected by the right. Former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg’s libertarians did join the left in calling for early elections.

Nečas’ conservatives, who are trailing the opposition Social Democrats in the polls, would rather have avoided elections and formed a new government on their own but Zeman, who won the Central European country’s first direct presidential election in January, used his power to appoint the premier to try to sideline the former ruling party — angering conservatives as well as many commentators who believe he overreached.

Zeman told parliament on Wednesday that he intended to keep Rusnok in charge of a caretaker administration until a new cabinet is formed. Elections are likely to be scheduled for October.

The former Social Democrat, who was prime minister between 1998 and 2002, won election against the urbane Schwarzenberg with 55 percent support, tapping into especially rural and working-class voters’ dissatisfaction with the conservatives who cut public spending, raised taxes and reined in pension payments to keep the Czech Republic’s budget shortfall under 3 percent of gross domestic product as demanded by European fiscal treaty. The country has been in recession since 2011.

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